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Most Common Differences Between Airborne And Bloodborne Pathogens

Bloodborne and airborne pathogens are infectious microorganisms that cause a variety of diseases. Both can be dangerous in a workplace or in confined spaces like a gym or school. However, they are very different threats. Both of them have very different prevention and risk evasion requirements. 

Let’s understand airborne versus bloodborne pathogens. The essential difference between these is that airborne pathogens travel through the air (such as the influenza virus) whereas bloodborne pathogens get transmitted through the infected blood. Bloodborne pathogens can transmit through bodily fluids like saliva, blood, etc. Airborne pathogens can spread through the air, either as droplets emitted when an infected person breathes or coughs or as aerosolized particles hanging in the air. However, pathogens in both blood and air can be bacteria or viruses.

To control the spread of pathogens and to handle the illnesses caused by them, infection control training is helpful for healthcare professionals. It covers the five basic principles of infection control:

1. Hand hygiene

2. Respiratory hygiene

3. Safe injection practices

4. Sharps safety

5. Disinfection and Sterilization of items required for patient-care

About airborne pathogens

Pathogens in the air are more infectious than pathogens in the blood. Breathing the contaminated air is enough to infect you with an airborne disease. Airborne diseases are caused by bacteria or viruses that spread through respiratory droplets in the air. When someone with the airborne disease coughs, sneezes, laughs, or exhales, these droplets expel into the air. These infectious micro-droplets are vehicles for infections. They can travel along air currents, linger in the air, or cling to surfaces before being inhaled by another person. Airborne transmission can take place over relatively long distances and periods. It could be dangerous to enter a bathroom where someone has coughed just a few moments earlier. Airborne diseases can travel farther than 6 feet and stay infectious for minutes to hours. This is largely determined by the building’s ventilation and preventative measures.

Illnesses caused by airborne pathogens

Some examples of airborne diseases are:

1. COVID-19

This virus causes respiratory illnesses. It spreads through the air when an infected person breathes, speaks, sneezes, or coughs. The infected droplets can linger in the air before falling to surfaces. They can infect you. The virus can also disperse as aerosol as it remains in the air for several hours and can get inhaled.

2. Measles 

Measles is one of the most contagious diseases. It affects up to 90% of those close to a person infected. It is a virus that lives in nasal and throat mucus and spreads through sneezing and coughing. The measles virus can survive in the air for up to two hours after the infected person leaves the area. ‌

3. Tuberculosis

Tuberculosis, or TB, is a bacterial infection that affects the lungs and throat. The TB bacteria are released into the air when a person with TB coughs, speaks or laughs. It does not spread by touching, sharing food, or kissing.

About bloodborne pathogens

Bloodborne pathogens spread through bodily fluids such as blood, sweat, sperm, saliva, vaginal secretions, and cerebrospinal fluid. If you come into contact with an infected person’s bodily fluid, you become infected with a bloodborne pathogen through the following ways:

· Bites from humans

· Injuries caused by needles

· Touching sores, infected cuts or abrasions, or sores

· Sharing contaminated needles

· Sex without protection

· Sharing personal care items like toothbrushes, etc.

Illnesses caused by bloodborne pathogens

Some of the illnesses caused by bloodborne pathogens are:

· Hepatitis B

· Hepatitis C

· Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)

· Viral fevers such as Ebola and Lassa fever


Enroll in the American CPR Care Association’s Bloodborne Pathogen course. This course will help you with the knowledge you need to protect yourself and others if exposed to blood or other potentially infectious materials (OPIM) at work. This OSHA-compliant training is for individuals such as healthcare providers, teachers, tattoo artists, daycare workers, housekeeping personnel, and general workplace employees who are at risk of being exposed to bloodborne pathogens.


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